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November 13, 2012

Thunder keeps Pistons winless with comeback

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Playing their fourth game in five nights, the Oklahoma City Thunder shook off a sluggish start in time to extend their winning streak.

Russell Westbrook scored a season-high 33 points and keyed a fourth-quarter comeback on his 24th birthday as Oklahoma City rallied to beat the winless Detroit Pistons 92-90 Monday night.

The defending Western Conference champions improved to 6-2 with their fifth straight victory.

"We had to find some energy," Thunder forward Nick Collison said. "We were down for three quarters and we found some energy."

The loss left the Pistons with an 0-8 record, the worst start in franchise history.

"We can't put our heads down. What is this, our seventh game? Eighth?" said Detroit guard Rodney Stuckey, who led the Pistons with 19 points. "There's a lot more games. We've just got to keep fighting."

Westbrook, who also had 10 rebounds and four assists, contributed six points — all on free throws — to a 13-0 Thunder run to open the fourth quarter that turned a 73-62 deficit into a 75-73 lead with 8:11 left.

"I looked up and we were down 11 going into the fourth quarter," Kevin Durant said. "And then I looked up and Russ was at the line and he didn't miss and we were down by two."

Durant, who had 26 points and nine rebounds, hit a tough runner with 47.8 seconds remaining that gave Oklahoma City an 88-85 advantage.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks went to a smaller and more athletic lineup in the fourth quarter, when Oklahoma City outscored the Pistons 30-17.

"I thought the guys did a great job of showing some activity, getting their hands on loose balls and rebounding the basketball," Brooks said. "Then we spread the court offensively and we were doing a good job of attacking and getting to the free throw line."

Oklahoma City shot only 37 percent from the field but was 37 of 42 at the free throw line, led by Durant (10 for 10) and Westbrook (11 for 15).

"We started switching and made it tough for them to execute," Collison said. "They really execute well, but they have struggled as well. But their offense was pretty good. We switched everything and they stopped getting advantages off the offense."

Greg Monroe added 17 points and six rebounds for Detroit. His lay-in ended the Pistons' fourth-quarter drought and tied it at 75 with 7:47 left.

"If we compete like that every night, we'll get our fair share of wins," coach Lawrence Frank said. "It can't just be selective and sometimes you compete and you lose. But it's obviously disappointing to lose that game."

Jason Maxiell had 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots for the Pistons. Tayshaun Prince had 12 rebounds, six rebounds and three assists. He also contained Durant for most of the night, limiting the three-time NBA scoring champion to 15 points through the first three quarters.

The Pistons took a 62-51 lead on two free throws by Stuckey with 6:11 left in the third before a timeout by the Thunder. Monroe's layup then made it 64-51, the Pistons' biggest advantage.

Detroit led 51-45 at halftime after leading by as much as 12 in the second quarter.

The Pistons' biggest advantage was 44-32 with 5:29 left in the first half after Maxiell's layup capped a 10-2 run.

Oklahoma City cut the deficit to 47-45 after a 13-3 spurt was finished off by Durant's dunk with 2:27 remaining in the first half. Serge Ibaka (seven points) and Westbrook (four) accounted for the rest of that run for the Thunder.

NOTES: Brooks was asked if the Lakers' surprise hiring of Mike D'Antoni as coach would affect how the Thunder viewed their Western Conference rivals. "That doesn't change how we look at them at all," Brooks said before the game. "We focus on our team and our development and how it plays out." 

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